In the Vinaya (monastic regulations) used by many South Asian Buddhist sects, a man under the age of 20 cannot ordain as a bhikṣu (monk) but can ordain as a sāmaṇera. Sāmaṇeras (and sāmaṇerīs – the equivalent term for girls) keep the Ten Precepts as their code of behaviour and devote themselves to the religious life during breaks from secular schooling, or in conjunction with it if devoted to formal ordination. In other cultures and Buddhist traditions (particularly North East Asia, and those in the West that derive from these lineages), monks take different sets of vows, and follow different customary rules.

After a year or at the age of 20, a sāmaṇera will be considered for the upasampada or higher ordination as a bhikṣu. Some monasteries will require people who want to ordain as a monk to be a novice for a set period of time, as a period of preparation and familiarization.